The reality TV star’s interview with NBC's “Meet the Press” Sunday -- which sister network MSNBC went on to play ad nauseam -- garnered the show its highest ratings in 18 months, as 3.6 million viewers tuned in. More than a million of them were from the coveted 25-54 demographic.
The show's ratings surge beat out ABC’s “This Week” and CBS’s “Face the Nation” in the same time slot by 775,000 and 1.2 million viewers, respectively.
It's certainly good news for "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd, who took the helm a year ago, and for NBC: The more viewers the better. But Trump’s effect on viewership raises an ethical question: Does ratings might make right?
MSNBC, like many of the other networks, has covered Trump so much lately it’s come to seem like The Trump Channel. It’s reminiscent of CNN’s obsession, last year, with downed Malaysian Airlines flight MH17. The network attempted to chase ratings with wall-to-wall coverage, which became a running punchline for Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show.”
“I think that if people want to be critical of CNN for over-covering a story, that's totally fine with us," CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker told Mashable at the time. "Clearly, the audience has spoken and said that what CNN did was correct.”
Except that if you left it to the audience, network news would primarily cover celebrity gossip. News producers and executives have to balance the quest for ratings with their duty to inform the public. It’s not hard to conclude that TV stations need to lighten up on the 24-hour Trump-o-thon.